tool terminology

If you are working on your car and ask someone to pass the lug wrench, if that person happens to be British, he will probably give you a quizzical look and ask whether you might want to use a wheel brace instead.

This highlights the alternative names used for the same sort of tools across English-speaking countries, the U.S, United Kingdom, or Australia.

If you are a mechanic, serious DIY enthusiast, or work in a hardware store, you might know the different terminology used for some common tools, but for the rest of us, we could probably do with a bit of help with the decoding.

Make some friends across the pond

If you are a bit of car enthusiast and want to have a meaningful conversation about your restoration work, it would help to have a useful reference to rely on so that your British or American colleague, whichever way round it is, understands exactly what you are talking about.

When you start working your way through the various components of your car you start to appreciate that you are both speaking English but the language can be very different.

Some classic differences that can even cause some amusement because of their different meaning with no relevance to cars, is the use of words like hood and trunk. The British equivalent for a hood is a bonnet and they would rather put something in the boot than a trunk.

If you drive a truck, that is known as a lorry in Britain and if you need fuel it is petrol, not gasoline. There is plenty of opportunity for confusion and if you are talking about tools rather than car parts there are some equally confusing variations to try and learn.

Same job different name

Once you starting working your way through a list of regular tools it is quite amazing to discover how many differences there are for their names, considering we are all supposed to be speaking the same language.

Here are a few examples of tools that are known by a different name in different parts of the world.

tool terminology

A spud bar is a crowbar

If you want a box-end wrench you might need to ask for a ring spanner

If you need a hex key be prepared to ask for an Allen key

A cutting job using a box cutter will be the same if you are using a Stanley knife

Changing a tire with the help of a lug wrench will become changing a tyre using a wheel brace.

These are just a few highlighted differences and there are plenty more to add to your vocabulary as you go along.

Spanner or wrench?

If you are in the UK you will be standing over a job with a spanner in your hand but you could also be using a wrench, although that tool is used to turn and manipulate pipes.

Wrench and spanner are interchangeable terms in Britain whereas wrench is the word that wins the day for this type of tool in the U.S.

There are always going to be opportunities for confusion when some tool names and other items get lost in translation, so you might have plenty of fun swapping terminology with an English-speaking friend from a different country.

Can you think of other regional differences between any other tool terminology?


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